This week on Down the Stacks, we’ll be looking at something that proved to be surprisingly engaging considering that it was mostly worldbuilding. Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe by James. M. Ward works on the same theme of naval adventure as Honor Harrington, but with magic instead of space travel and far less politics and detailed exposition.
Monday, December 28, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
For the last four weeks I've been talking about what makes Mary Sue characters intolerable. This week, I'll begin explaining ways to "redeem" a Mary Sue into a character people would actually enjoy.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Monday, November 16, 2015
Today’s subject for Down the Stacks is… average. Murder on Olympus by Robert B. Warren mixes standard modern Private Investigator tropes with Greek Mythology and doesn’t take many chances.
Read on if you wish.
Monday, October 12, 2015
This week’s Down the Stacks has been a long time in coming. The Honor Harrington series by David Weber is one I’ve wanted to talk about since I started this blog series, but the sheer size of the series means it’s not something I could consume in the course of a single week. I still haven’t read all the main-line Harrington books, let alone the various side-series and short story anthologies set in the same universe, but I think I’ve finally come far enough that I can introduce you to the Honorverse and all its wonderful, deep, and detailed complexities.
This promises to be a long one, so let’s be about it.
Monday, October 5, 2015
This week’s selection for “Down the Stacks” is the first volume in the steampunk / alternate history series of “Mark Hodder Present Burton and Swinburne in…” The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack. It’s a lovely mixture of historical fact, pulpy science fiction, and Victorian British manners.
Monday, September 14, 2015
This week on Down the Stacks, for the first time I return to an author I’ve previously featured: Brandon Sanderson. As I’ve said before, Sanderson is one of my all-time favorites because of his world-building and ability to hold his readers’s interest through hundreds of pages. This week’s selection, The Emperor’s Soul, is a much lighter affair, clocking in at a modest 167 pages. Despite its brevity, however, The Emperor’s Soul still has most of the hallmarks of Sanderson’s writing.
Monday, September 7, 2015
This week on Down the Stacks, we’re taking a foray into Steampunk territory with a bit of post-apocalyptic flavor. Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine also breaks away from the traditional bounds of narrative time, producing a unique and sometime frustrating experience. Read on as I try to sort out the puzzle pieces.
Monday, August 31, 2015
I don't have a Down the Stacks review prepared this week, so instead I'm starting a "substitution" series where I'll review anything that isn't books but I feel like stating my opinion about. This "Other Media Review" will be about an anime series I recently watched: Log Horizon.
Monday, August 17, 2015
This week on Down the Stacks, I’m turning my attention to one of the my all-time favorite contemporary authors, Brandon Sanderson. He is a master story-weaver with a particular gift for crafting fascinating and complex worlds with unique cultures and very realistic problems. Sanderson is also the best creator of new and unusual systems of magic; half the fun of reading his novels is learning the rules that govern each world’s magic systems. The other half of the fun is watching the characters resolve major conflicts that may only tangentially relate to magic.
There are a lot of Brandon Sanderson book series to choose from, but for this review I’ll be looking at one of the stand-alone novels: Warbreaker.
Monday, August 3, 2015
This week on Down the Stacks, we’re diving into the first entry in a take on the legends of Merlin and King Arthur that reaches far beyond the shores of Britain and into the realms of other gods, myths, and heroes. Author Robert Holdstock has a clear love of the old stories from before the spread of Christianity throughout Europe: the times of paganism, tribal and clan honor, and bloody cycles of revenge. Through this wild world wanders the sort of Merlin we rarely consider - not a sagacious mentor but a man of passion who has yet to gain wisdom. Come with me as we explore the untamed lands of Celtika.
Monday, July 20, 2015
This week on “Down the Stacks” we’ll be looking at a fantasy novel that takes a unique spin on a classic fantasy creature, the griffin. The uniqueness of the author’s approach makes it difficult to judge the book as simply “good” or “bad,” because it simply ignores many expectations of griffins while still hitting many familiar notes. Come with me on this journey through Lord of the Changing Winds by Rachel Neumeier, and maybe by the end we’ll figure out if it’s actually worth looking for the rest of its series.
Monday, July 13, 2015
This week’s offering for Down the Stacks is a good example of a “potboiler,” a piece of work good enough to get published and earn the author some money, but not groundbreaking or experimental. The author is Mike Resnick, and the book in question is The Fortress in Orion.
Monday, June 29, 2015
This week’s selection for “Down the Stacks” is a high fantasy series I discovered years ago but only read part-way through until this past week. It’s a relatively recent entry into the genre, published in the early 2000s, and thus mixes up the expected elements of Fantasy with contemporary styles and themes. The series may be informally referred to as the “Wit’ch saga” after the naming pattern of the individual books, but author James Clemens called the five books as a whole “The Banned and the Banished.”
Monday, June 22, 2015
This week on Down the Stacks, I’m looking at a lesser-known book by one of the biggest names in hard Science Fiction: Larry Niven. Niven is best known for his Known Space universe, which includes the Ringworld series - an obvious inspiration for the setting of the first Halo game - and for the depth of research he puts into making his aliens as biologically plausible as possible. In this week’s selection, Destiny’s Road, Niven’s world-building skills are put on full display on a planet populated by human colonists isolated from the rest of the universe.
Monday, June 15, 2015
For this week’s Down the Stacks, I’ve dropped in to the Young Adult section of the library to pick out a Diana Wynne Jones novel I enjoyed reading some years back. Dark Lord of Derkholm is a clever send-up of sword-and-sorcery fantasy that both satirizes the cliches and comes together as a great fantasy story in its own right.
Monday, June 8, 2015
This week on Down the Stacks, we’re moving away from Fantasy and into the realm of science fiction. This week’s selection is a trilogy written by Alan Dean Foster, an author who has written a large number of science fiction stories with a wide range of themes. Foster’s best works deal with humanity’s interactions with the galaxy at large, including first contact situations, interstellar war and politics, and discovering mind-screwing mysteries of the universe. The Taken Trilogy, consisting of Lost and Found, The Light-years Beneath my Feet, and The Candle of Distant Earth, is a story of alien abduction that takes an atypical direction from the usual plots.
Monday, June 1, 2015
This week on “Down the Stacks” I’m looking at one of my all-time favorite authors, Mercedes Lackey. Lackey is a prolific fantasy writer who has a knack for retelling old fairy tales and folklore in a variety of settings, combining said stories into single tales, and also works well with other authors in creating epic fantasy worlds. There are a lot of books that bear Mercedes Lackey’s name, divided among enough separate series to fill a couple months of weekly reviews, but this week I’ll be looking at the newest of Lackey’s three major projects: Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms.
Monday, May 25, 2015
This week on “Down the Stacks,” I’ll be looking at a six-volume military epic written on a bet by Jim Butcher, of Dresden Files fame. After a debate about whether or not a good author could produce a good book from a bad idea, Butcher bet he could write a good book based on two random ideas. The concepts given to him were a lost Roman legion and Pokemon, and the books that came forth are collectively called The Codex Alera.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Welcome to the first review in the “Down the Stacks” series. In “Down the Stacks,” I write about Fantasy and Science Fiction books I have read and which I believe deserve some time in the spotlight. For this first review, I’ve chosen the book series that takes the first position on my local library’s shelf by author name: The Legend of Eli Monpress, by Rachel Aaron.